It's the Capitol: Bill Increasing Accident Reports Advances

By Published On: June 12, 2014

Legislation requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to inform the Legislature and governor about safety accidents under investigation passed unanimously in the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee June 9. The bill before the committee raises the profile of safety accidents and reminds lawmakers of the need to “keep residents of California safe,” said Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), author of SB 1409. Hill noted that people have been electrocuted by felled power lines, including one of his constituents. Little is known about the specifics or status of the investigations, the lawmaker asserted. According to the commission's 2009 Electric, Natural Gas, & Propane Safety Report, 82 reports related to natural gas incidents and 93 related to electric incidents were received that year. Southern California Edison was the sole bill opponent. The bill could result in the release of safety accident information that could be misinterpreted and “hinder the process of sharing and communicating sensitive information to the CPUC,” said utility lobbyist Rod Brewer. “This bill is about learning from accidents,” Hill said. He noted SB 1409 only requires that “succinct information” about the accident be provided. Specifically, the incident date, reason for the investigation, facility involved—i.e., power plant or power line—and the utility involved are to be part of the commission’s annual work plan and reported to lawmakers. The panel also passed two other Hill bills without discussion on a 14-0 vote. They were: • SB 434 extending the conflict-of-interest rules on commissioners. It specifically prohibits them from joining non-state entities created by their own agency. • SB 636 drawing a wider line between commission members’ and staff’s personal and professional involvement in commission cases to strengthen conflict-of-interest rules. That includes prohibiting them from participating in an adjudication in which they are personally involved. Hill pointed to a former commission general counsel, who earlier worked as a Pacific Gas & Electric attorney. Former head commission lawyer Frank Lindh advised commissioners and staff in the prosecution of PG&E for the San Bruno natural gas explosion.

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